Loudoun County celebrates graduations
For Loudoun's largest and smallest graduating classes, the ceremonies weren't just about pomp and circumstance. Both the speakers talked the importance of taking risks and new things. But both the speakers, through their appearances at these graduations, demonstrated the importance of something else: remembering where you came from.
Vikings set sail
Inclement weather moved Loudoun Valley's 9 a.m. graduation from the football stadium to the gymnasium but the rain couldn't wash away the smiles.
Valley's 247 graduates, the smallest class in Loudoun County this year, entered the gym with the boys donning green and the girls in white. Numerous students sported customized mortarboards, with glittered collegiate acronyms revealing the next step in their academic journeys.
Cara Jill Broshkevitch was Valley's valedictorian.
“As we graduate today and move on to new communities, we will always remember the journey it took to get there,” Broshkevitch said. “I'm proud to be a Valley Viking and I will always be proud to be a Valley Viking.”
Troy Mohler, a Loudoun Valley graduate and doctor, echoed Broshkevitch's sentiments during his keynote speech.
After graduating from the University of Virginia's medical school in 2005, Mohler completed his residency at East Tennessee State University's hospital. From there, he opened up a practice in Lynchburg, which by his accounts was doing well.
“It was a life that many people would call successful,” Mohler said. “But not me. Something was missing.”
Mohler sought a new challenge and responded to an advertisement seeking doctors in a remote part of New Zealand. From there, Mohler worked in various other locations, including Antarctica, Ghana and Azerbaijan. In 2012, Mohler returned to Loudoun to work for Leesburg-Sterling Family Practice.
Mohler noted that his family didn't understand his decision to travel across the world, though they did support him.
“The key to happiness is to be who you are, not who people want you to be,” Mohler told the students.
Mohler encouraged the graduates to try new things, even if it is uncomfortable.
“Placing yourself outside your comfort zone, challenging yourself mentally, physically and emotionally makes you stronger and it builds confidence.”
For his part, Mohler was thrilled at the opportunity to return to a place that was so formative to him.
“It's always home. No matter where I've been, Purcellville, Lovettesville, Valley, it's always home,” Mohler said. “It doesn't matter where you go, your family is always home.
Bulldogs leave a paw print
Stone Bridge boasted this year's largest graduating class, and at 2 p.m., all 494 students bounded into the Patriot Center.
With more than $5 million in academic and athletic scholarships and with students attending more than 100 universities in the United States and overseas, the administration expects the graduating Bulldogs to make a paw print on the world.
Loudoun County Superintendent Edgar Hatrick gave the opening remarks.
Hatrick encouraged students to ensure the opportunities afforded to them are given to others and to make a positive impact wherever they go.
“If you do that, we will have heard a resounding 'thank-you,'” Hatrick said.
Katherine Bellino and Haitham “Duke” Shahin had identical GPAs and both students gave valedictory addresses.
“It's a milestone to be celebrated, but is also the perfect time to reflect on our past as we prepare for our future,” Bellino said of graduation.
After music from the band, chorus and a senior solo from Sarah Reed, Ka'Turah Frances, senior class president, introduced Stone Bridge's keynote speaker, Peter Bladel.
Like Mohler, Bladel is an alum of the school he spoke to.
Bladel graduated from Stone Bridge in 2004 and then headed to Christopher Newport University, where he played football, though he claims he was a mediocre player.
“If you watch my highlight tape, it's mostly just me celebrating when other people make tackles,” Bladel said.
After his sophomore year of college, Bladel transferred to the University of Virginia, which he called his dream school. He also tried out and made the Cavaliers' Division I football squad as a walk-on.
Now, Bladel lives in New York, where he works for Turner Broadcasting and is pursuing standup comedy.
Bladel said his experiences have taught him about the importance of not staying complacent and trying to reach new goals.
“It's having a positive mental attitude,” Bladel told the graduating seniors. “It's the ability to step back, survey the situation and say 'I got this.'”
Bladel jokingly warned the students not to take that to the extreme.
“YOLO is not an excuse to do whatever stupid thing pops into your head,” Bladel said, referencing a popular rap song from Drake. “You may only live one life, but in that life you must YOLO responsibly.”
Bladel did tell the students seriously that the foundation Stone Bridge has given them will help prepare them to take on life's future challenges.
Like Mohler, Bladel hoped to inspire the students he spoke to.
“Stone Bridge is a really special place to me,” Bladel said. “It means a lot to try and impart some wisdom to the younger people.”
“Ashburn is always going to be my home,” Blade continued. “It's where I spent the most time, it's where I developed and I love it here.”
Loudoun County Public schools graduated more than 4,400 students this past week and hosted 12 high school graduation ceremonies and six other program graduations.
All photos by Beverly Denny and Aaron Thomas
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